Review: Isuca

Who Would Like this Anime?

Gore, mild drama, lots of boobies, and battles: These are the things Isuca will deliver. It’s a pretty standard fantasy battle anime, just a bit on the violent side, but nothing to worry about.

Premise

There’s another world/dimension from which the smaller of so-called “Youma” – basically mystic monsters – leak into ours. The Shizuma family has fought back those monsters for centuries. Sakuya, a high school girl, is the current head of the family and very controversial in her position as their leader. A boy from her school, Shinichirou, happens to get caught up in a Youma incident and gets saved by Sakuya. During said incident, they discover that he has the ability to greatly boost the spiritual powers of others as well as descern their “true names.” Knowing someone’s true name means they can’t go against the will of those who know it. After his contact with Sakuya, Shinichirou slowly but surely gets dragged into the conflicts within the Shizuma family and the ever-looming Youma threat.

I’m pretty sure this anime is either a native 1080p production or at least close. The visual effects are really pretty and the images very sharp – the animations are fine, but no jawdropper. Even distant faces (when characters are farther in the background) and their animations are still pleasing to the eye, so they didn’t cut corners here either. To me it seems that they went all out on the visuals with the production budget, which also kind of hurts the sound production value, but I’ll go further into that below. The visuals, however, are a-ok, I dig those.

Conclusion

What a strange anime this Isuca is: Strangely good in some aspects and strangely poor in others. One thing’s for sure: Welcome to late-night anime. Wet panties, lots of boobies, lots of gore, and the protagonist burrying his face in one crotch after the other. That’s got to be too much for prime time anime even for Japanese broadcasting standards. Usually, late-night anime doesn’t fail to surprise – in either way. In our case, we’ve got an anime with comparatively high highs and low lows.

For one, the visual production value is surprisingly high. The characters look a bit plain, but the anime itself seems to have been produced at something close to native 1080p. On top of that, the effects are decent and the BG details fairly high. There are, however, sound mixing (?) issues. The voice of Sakuya, the main heroine, sounds awfully thin – especially when she’s upset. There’s a gap in quality between her recordings and the recordings of other cast members. On top of that, I would’ve liked to hear more background music, lots of scenes have nothing but the characters talking which takes out a bit of the excitement. Enjoy the silence.

What does the story offer? The general idea behind Isuca is actually surprisingly interesting: You’ve got the ever-present Youma problem, on top of that you’ve got quarrels within the family who’s supposed to deal with the Youma, and to make matters worse, you’ve got a third party messing with both of them. You can really feel that sh*t’s going down in this anime without the creators making it overly dark: It’s exciting and interesting to watch, but not depressing or agitating… well, maybe a bit agitating, but for another reason.

After all, you might feel like sh*t’s going down, but the characters don’t. It’s just so incredibly stupid to watch (side-)characters being literally torn into pieces by a Youma, but none of the main cast seem too fazed by it while their biggest problem at that moment is that they don’t wanna kiss the protagonist to enhance their own powers and maybe save one or two of their servants. They’d rather watch them ripped in two. It doesn’t feel like the characters have any sense of emergency, it’s ridiculous how little they care if people die right and left. It really makes you wonder: What do they even fight the Youma for? Certainly not to save people. Isuca has problems with its story-telling in the details. As interesting as the premise is, as stupid is the execution.

Want a small selection of “WTF moments” to undergird my point? A Youma infests a building and sort of becomes one with it. It traps several of their colleagues in the building’s concret. The main cast urges Sakuya to kill the Youma. She does and their colleagues explode in a fountain of blood. Her friends explain: With the Youma dead, the building just returned to being a building again, so the colleagues trapped inside got smashed by the concrete. She basically killed those people while no one even tried to look for a way to save them. Her “friends” talked her into executing them without batting an eye. What the…?

Another? They enter the lair of a spider Youma, one of them literally says, “We should be very careful now.” What does Shinichirou do? Shouts something like, “We have to hurry,” runs ahead, everyone runs after him and everyone gets caught by the Youma: Surprise! That’s such a ridiculously obvious facepalm moment, why did they even bother doing it like this?

A few more words about Sakuya, the other characters are alright, I guess. However, Sakuya is an effing brat. A tsundere without the “dere” for the most part. She just verbally and physically abuses Shinichirou 24/7 and does, in general, come across like a very annoying and selfish, little brat. And when she goes “dere,” it’s just so contrary to her behavior a minute ago that what happened prior to her “transformation” just hardly seems to justify the major change in character. It makes you feel like she’s just messing with him instead of being genuinely nice. I can get behind the relationship that developes between Suseri and him, but with Sakuya? Hm.

Another thing: At one point, Shinichirou gets to know Sakuya’s “real name.” That basically allows him to command her, which is a really big deal story-wise and for her personally – after all, how could she be the head of the family when she’s potentially his puppet. However, this doesn’t have any considerable impact on the later story; that’s a lot of potential down the drain. Lastly, it’s ridiculous how little dependable everyone is. They’re an ancient family of Youma hunters, yet every single Youma they run into almost kills them all. They keep running head-first into them, getting their asses handed while looking like a bunch of idiots, and then somehow manage to beat them in the end. They lose at least half a dozen of servants per Youma it feels like. Where do they get all the cannon fodder from? How many servants did they burn over the centuries?

All in all, Isuca is a pretty fantasy battle anime with a really interesting setting and exciting twists and turns. What keeps it from being truly good are sound issues and the awfully stupid scenes until it gets to those twists and turns – it’s unintentionally funny, you could say. I’d like to give it a 7 for its story and visuals, but I won’t because of the god awful execution and weird voice issues. I wouldn’t rewatch it, so it’s not a 7 but more of a strong 6. Isuca is a fairly violent fantasy battle anime with a lot of ecchi that you could give a shot when you’re done with the other good stuff.

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